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  Priest Receives 5 Years' Probation in Molesting Case; Therapy Ordered

By Jerry Hicks
Los Angeles Times
November 25, 1986

A Huntington Beach Roman Catholic priest convicted of 26 counts of molesting four altar boys was sentenced Monday to five years of formal probation on condition he complete treatment at a live-in therapy center in New Mexico where he already has been accepted.

Father Andrew Christian Andersen, 34, who was in charge of the altar boys at St. Bonaventure Catholic Church in Huntington Beach, was hugged by its pastor, Msgr. Michael Duffy, and dozens of other parishioners after the Orange County Superior Court judge's ruling.

Andersen, dressed in a coat and tie, later told reporters: "We have all suffered; I ask for healing and forgiveness not only for myself, but for my church."

Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael C. Koski asked that Andersen be sent to state prison. But if probation were granted, Koski asked that it include serving a year in the Orange County Jail.

Koski said later he disagreed with Judge Luis A. Cardenas' decision not to give Andersen any more jail time. Andersen already has served about two months at the California Institution for Men at Chino, where Cardenas sent him for a diagnostic study.

Andersen was to report Saturday to the Martin Villa Foundation House in Jemez Springs, which is run by a Catholic Church order called Servants of the Paracletes. The program he will enter can take from seven months up to 1 1/2 years, his attorney, William M. Monroe, said.

Judge Cardenas, who convicted Andersen at a non-jury trial two months ago, sentenced him to six years in state prison but suspended the sentence. Cardenas warned Andersen, however, that he would have to serve that sentence if he failed to complete the treatment program or if he got into any more trouble. He also ordered the priest to stay away from anyone under 18 unless another adult is present.

Andersen told reporters that he does not know what his future holds but that he is still a priest. In a statement issued out of the Diocese of Orange, Auxiliary Bishop John T. Steinbock, diocesan administrator, said that "until his therapy is concluded, there is little we can say about his future ministry, other than that he will never be in direct contact with children."

Steinbock added that "our hearts go out full of compassion and concern, both to the boys and to Father Andersen himself."

Molestation Charges

Andersen had asked Cardenas to decide on a verdict without a jury and without a formal trial, but based on available police records.

Andersen, who joined St. Bonaventure in 1982, was charged with molesting the youths -- three who were 12 years of age and another who was 13 -- between 1983 and 1986.

Two minor incidents occurred with one boy in 1983. When the boy's mother complained to church officials, Andersen was ordered to seek psychological counseling. But after a year in a counseling program, Andersen later admitted, he molested three more boys between February, 1985, and March, 1986. He was arrested last April and has been under suspension by the church since then.

Monroe said Andersen asked for a trial based only on the police records to spare the victims from having to testify.

Cardenas convicted him on all 26 counts. None of the counts, however, involved more than fondling, and none of the counts indicated exposure of the boys' or Andersen's genitals. Defense attorney Monroe said the minimal nature of the counts obviously had some influence on the judge's decision to grant probation.

Cardenas said another factor in granting probation was that Andersen had shown remorse for what he had done.

Parishioners Rebuked

From the bench Monday, he also said he was influenced by dozens of letters of support he received from St. Bonaventure parishioners on Andersen's behalf. But Cardenas also said the letters had upset him.

"It is obvious from these letters that many of you still refuse to believe that Father Andersen is responsible for these crimes," Cardenas said. "Let me assure you that he is. Father Andersen has admitted his guilt. . . . For your own peace of mind, you would be better off accepting that . . . rather than cause further dissension within the church."

But Cardenas said he was "saddened" that none of the letter writers expressed any sympathy for the victims, noting that in one case the victim's family felt that it necessary to leave the church and even question its religious faith.

The family members, he said, "feel they have been abandoned by the rest of the parishioners."

Msgr. Duffy said after the ruling that he was "happy and relieved" by the probation sentence and added that he remains supportive of Andersen because "he is my friend, my associate and my compatriot."

Several parishioners later said they were pleased that Andersen was not sent to prison but glad that he will be getting psychological help.

One supporter, a member of the St. Bonaventure parish for 16 years who asked not to be named, said: "He would never have survived in prison. This is best for him and for the church."

Others said that they attended Monday's sentencing because their church was involved but that they had no opinion on an appropriate sentence.

"I think it probably worked out for the best," said parishioner Louise Eckroth of Huntington Beach. "But if it had been my kids (that he molested), I would have strangled him."

 
 

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